The Truth House - by Several Alumni

My idea of constructing such a structure was not original. Across the country there are several "Strange Gravity" or "Negative Gravity" buildings. I visited two of them in Florida many years ago. There are also places where automobiles seem to slowly roll uphill. Of course, these places are tourist attractions, some of which have appeared in Ripley's Believe it or Not. In the case of the automobile, these places are where the surrounding terrain is such that an illusion is created which confuses one's sense of up and down.

The Truth House experience capitalizes on the fact that since birth our bodies are constantly learning to adapt to the gravitational force of the earth which pulls our bodies toward its center. The direction of this force is downward toward our feet. We gradually learn to accept this force and we eventually sit up, walk or run without thinking about it.

Most of this activity, however, occurs on a horizontal surface such as a floor or walkway. We might say this is our usual Frame of Reference.

If, however, we encounter a surface that slopes downward or upward, we tend to fall downward or upward and this is exactly what happens as we enter the Truth House, where we must quickly adapt to a new Frame of Reference. It is just a fun way to learn the meaning of this term.

The building is constructed so that the outside walls stand vertically and the appearance is that of a normal house. The inside rooms, however, are tilted, relative to the horizontal outside ground surface.

The tilted, inside rooms are furnished to look like a normal room with "windows", regular doors, light fixtures, furniture, etc. This creates the illusion that the inside rooms are not unusual except that there is this strange force pulling everything to one side, as if gravity is somehow now pulling us toward the opposite wall and not straight down in the direction of our feet.

There are a few other unusual things to support this perception: (1) Water, dripping from a wall faucet falls not toward the floor but into a sink placed a few inches to the side of and below the faucet, (2) A ball rolling down a track which is attached to a wall, drops off the end of the track to a second track below and then rolls back "up" the second track, (3) A chinning bar is easy to "chin" from one side but more difficult to "chin" from the opposite side, and so on.

A person living permanently in the Truth House would be hard to convince that gravitational force is acting as it normally does. His Frame of Reference clearly suggest otherwise.

A more dramatic example of changing ones perspective or Frame of Reference is that of an astronaut who leaves the earth's surface gravitational force and very soon experiences zero gravitational force.

These examples, then, illustrate the importance of considering carefully the differences in what is and what seems to be.

What color is the sky? Blue, of course. Well, not always. It depends upon where you are. On the earth's surface, it appears to be blue, but in a space ship a few miles up, it is very black.

Which way is South? From Indian Springs, it's toward Alabaster. But if you are standing on the North Pole, South is in an direction. Which political party is best for the country? (This should be obvious to everyone. Pay no attention to Mr. Fleming.) The point is that we want our students to learn not to accept as Truth, everything we hear, see or feel, but to consider, examine, test, and question things, critically and creatively.. In short, to seek the truth.

I was attracted to Indian Springs when I learned that here students are encouraged to think, to use their minds to evaluate, to analyze, to identify cause and effect, and to separate fact from fiction or opinion.

I was also attracted by the beauty of the place (though it lies in a flood plane and one night Mr. Moore, Madoc Thomas and I had to spend the night trapped in the hay loft above the horse barn as the flood level reached about 10 feet and several large snakes tried to join us.) But most of all I was influenced to come as a faculty member when then Director Dr. Armstrong mentioned in my interview that students are encouraged to think critically and creatively.

I almost gulped because what he did not know was that in all of my prior teaching years the letters T2 C2 were prominently displayed on the chalk board at the front of my classroom and labs. (And they continued there until I retired.)

These letters and exponents stood for my goal for all my students to learn to think critically and creatively: T. T. C. C. or algebraically, T2 C2.

It was as if Doc knew about my T2 C2 symbol before the interview, but in fact he did not. It was a wonderful coincidence.

Later, I proposed the construction of the Truth House, and although there was not wild enthusiasm of the faculty, it was clear Dr. Armstrong would support it.

When entering the Truth House for the first time, students would say things like "Hey, what's going on here?" "How can this be?" "This is unreal." "I can't believe this" and,. invariably "Cool."

In other words "What is the cause of this? What is the truth behind this crazy house? How can you explain it? What makes this happen?" This is the critical thinking part.

An Indian Springs student ( a freshman) once asked me what a Truth House would be like if it were built circularly instead of square, and the whole thing be made to rotate about a vertical axis. Was that creative thinking or what? The student was Ben Thomas.

So if you ask what is the purpose of the Truth House, you could say that (1) It attracts people to the campus and (2) causes people to ask some critical and creative questions and to think about cause and effect, action and reaction, reality and illusion, interpretation and analysis, and speculation versus fact.

At Indian Springs, both inside and outside the classroom, heavy emphasis is placed upon the importance of independent thinking and new ideas. On the door of the newly built Truth House, there was a plaque entitled "What is Truth?" It was written by Doctor Armstrong and it was a challenge to all who entered to ask not only the questions of how it all works the way it does but why. He mentioned "Frame of Reference," and "Point of View, " and "physical and cultural environment." He further challenged the visitor to think about solving some of the Truth House riddles and to apply this thinking to everyday problems.

Richard N. Jones

It was a small but important building, constructed by ISS students, in which dimensions, sloping surfaces, perspective murals, and furniture nailed to the walls or the ceiling all combined to make one search for truth in direction. Inside the house, you could not be sure whether you were walking down or up a slope, because of the optical and spatial illusions. To me it represented the importance of the search for truth and the ease with which we can be deceived if we do not stay alert.

Denil Bryson

Generically, evidence of community is what remains of those who've gone before -- those remains which required cooperation of those involved. We think at times of the Great Pyramids, the statues on Easter Island, and so on. When I arrived at ISS as a starry-eyed freshman (there was no eighth grade in the Fall of 1973), Charles Ellis, Sybil Dearing, Joe Mays, and . . . all of them really . . . said we were part of a community. Somewhere along the way, references were made to contributions of sweat by past senior classes [hint, hint?] and the Truth House and Hut were included. I was (am) impressed.

The shock value for the first time visitor was great. The wood siding and door were by all external appearances normal. Climbing five or so steps to enter the house, one stepped into a room which also appeared normal, but was built to a reference plane at a substantial angle off level. On one wall was affixed two nearly parallel railings, such that a ball placed on the upper railing would roll "up" to the other side of the room, then drop to the lower railing and roll back. An plaque carrying an interesting saying about "truth" was close by.

Good luck in your search for the truth.



Also, I seem to remember hearing that the Truth House was conceived in large part by (Richard?) Jones, the physics teacher at that time. It also featured a staircase in which going "up" was really down, and vice versa. I was reminded of it tangentially when I later read of some of Einstein's famous "Thought Experiments" that led to the General Theory of Relativity (the ones involving the inability to distinguish between gravity and a force of acceleration inside a closed "box".

John Merritt '67

If my memory serves me correctly, the Truth House was a D Day project which grew out of Robert Moore's science and wood shop classes. It was not an interesting tradition but rather a small wooden building with examples of a few optical illusions.

It was constructed in such a way that uphill appeared to be downhill and vice versa. This and other deceptions was acheived by building the floor at an downhill angle while the walls and surroundings were angled uphill. So when you would walk downhill in the Truth House the surroundings gave the appearance that you were moving uphill. It actually felt like you were walking uphill when in reality you were moving downhill. Your legs would struggle to take you downhill and you would come out a huffing and a puffing with tired legs-all from moving downhill.

The name and house illustrates the philosophical thought that what we beleive to be true is a matter of perception not actually. Perceptions can be far removed from the reality or the truth. In the Truth House you could seemingly roll a ball uphill. What is the truth? Is it what you perceive or is it what something else? Is the truth out there or it all just a creation of our perceptions? Can fifty million Frenchmen be wrong? Is yellow yellow or is that just our agreed upon name for a shared sight? The whole idea of the Truth House was to physically create doubt in what we beleive to be true-to understand that not everything is black and white but rather a matter of perception. You would come out of the Truth House doubting everything you beleived to be true and understanding he complexity of the world around us.

Robert Moore designed, built, and maintained the ISS facility. He was the chief do nothing and a construction engineer who Doc hired at the job site to be a teacher and facilities manager. Robert Moore used to park his plane on the other side of the track. His home was across the fence. He was a printer, a wood working & science teacher, a photographer, and the first million dollar a year salesman of real estate in the Cahaba Valley.

Best regards-Henry '67